Definitions

Lower Palaeolithic

Lower Paleolithic

The Lower Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 2.5 million years ago when the first evidence of craft and use of stone tools by hominids appears in the current archaeological record, until around 100,000 years ago when important evolutionary and technological changes (behavioral modernity) ushered in the Middle Paleolithic.

Early species

The earliest hominids, known as australopithecines (personified by the famous find of Lucy in Ethiopia) were not advanced stone tool users and were likely to have been common prey for larger animals. Sometime before 3 million years ago the first fossils that may be called Homo appear in the archaeological record. They may have evolved from the australopithecines or come from another phylogenetic branch of the primates.

Homo habilis remains, such as those from Olduvai Gorge, are much more recognisable as humans. Stone-tool use was developed by these people around 2.5 million years ago before they were replaced by Homo erectus about 1.5 million years ago. Members of Homo habilis used Olduwan tools and had learned to control fire to support the hunter-gatherer method of subsistence.

Europe

The Oldowan tool making culture moved into Europe from Africa, where it had originated. In the north the Olduwan tradition (known in Europe as Abbevillian) split into two parallel traditions, the Clactonian, a flake tradition, and the Acheulean, a hand-axe tradition. The Levallois technique for knapping flint developed during this time.

The carrier species from Africa to Europe undoubtedly was Homo erectus. This type of human is more clearly linked to the flake tradition, which spread across southern Europe through the Balkans to appear relatively densely in southeast Asia. Many Mousterian finds in the Middle Paleolithic have been knapped using a Levallois technique, suggesting that Neanderthals evolved from Homo erectus.

Also in Europe appeared a type of human intermediate between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, typified by such fossils as those found at Swanscombe, Steinheim, Tautavel, and Vertesszollos (Homo palaeohungaricus). Although it is unwise, given the current state of knowledge, to assume an exclusive association of any type of human with any specific type of tool, the intermediates seem responsible for the hand-axe tradition. Such an association does not imply that they necessarily evolved in Europe.

Flakes and axes coexisted in Europe, sometimes at the same site. The axe tradition, however, spread to a different range in the east. It appears in Arabia and India, but more importantly, it does not appear in southeast Asia.

At the site of Monte Poggiolo, near Forlì, thousands of stone handaxes have been found that date from 800,000 years ago.

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